Thursday, October 04, 2012

Over two and a half million 'faggots'

We've started to look at language and representation in AS Language recently, so this link might be of interest to you. It uses Twitter to track the use of potentially homophobic language items, such as dyke and faggot.

It's pretty shocking that so many casually abusive words are chucked around so frequently, but is it the whole story?  As we've been looking at with racist and sexist terms, part of the consideration we need to give to some of these words is the context they're used in. For example, slut might mean one thing when shouted across a street or posted by some sleazy internet troll, but might mean something completely different when used in banter with another female.

We've already seen that the word nigger (or nigga) mean different things to different people in different contexts, so is a blunt tool like counting the number of times a word is used really going to reveal much abut homophobic attitudes? It's a start, at least, so might then allow a more detailed analysis of the contexts and meanings in each case.

There's more about the real-time Twitter feed here, where you can really look at each tweet as it appears, and yes, most of them are from teenage boys abusing each other or talking rubbish. The questions then might be, does it matter? Is anyone really offended by it? Why is it seen as acceptable for these words to be chucked around with such gay (sorry) abandon by some of these people? Does it reflect a deeply ingrained anti-gay attitude, or just a casual attitude to what words mean and how they can harm?

Some of these questions are addressed here on the No Homophobes site, and it makes for a provocative and interesting read.

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